The 411: Texas A&M proves why its currently better than Texas; TCU, Texas Tech QB battles end

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Week 4 provided plenty of fireworks across Texas as a few in-state rivals squared off in thrillers. Texas Tech overcame a double-digit second half deficit to beat Texas in the Longhorns’ last trip to Lubbock in the foreseeable future. Houston outlasted a game Rice squad, and TCU took back the Iron Skillet from SMU in Sonny Dykes’ return to Ford Stadium

The 411 offers four truths, one prediction, and one question following Week 4 as we turn the page towards Week 5. 

FOUR TRUTHS 

Texas A&M proves why it is currently better than Texas: Healthy programs win close games. That’s exactly what Texas A&M has done in the Jimbo Fisher era, and it’s exactly what is undoing the Steve Sarkisian tenure at Texas. The Aggies are 12-7 in one-possession games since Fisher took over in 2018, including a 2-1 record in such games in 2022. Close wins over Miami (eight points) and Arkansas (two points) saved the Aggies’ season despite struggles in the passing game. Conversely, the Longhorns are 2-5 in one-possession games since Sarkisian took over in 2021. Texas is 0-2 in such games during 2022 with a one-point loss to Alabama at home and an overtime loss to Texas Tech in Lubbock over the weekend. 

Texas A&M’s offense is in shambles and the Aggies still find ways to win against ranked opponents. The Aggies are tied for the fewest red zone trips in FBS with six through four games. They average 53 offensive plays a game, which is also the lowest in the country. Fisher’s squad is 2-1 over the last three weeks, however, despite averaging just 18 points per game against FBS opponents in 2022. Texas doesn’t win those types of game, which is a concerning trend heading into the SEC. Texas has blown five double-digit second-half leads through 16 games of Sark’s reign on the 40 Acres. 

Maybe Tom Herman was right, “winning is hard.” Texas is a program that hasn’t held a winning recipe on a consistent basis since Colt McCoy was on campus. The program had nine consecutive double-digit win seasons from 2001 to 2009. Since the 2009 season, that’s only happen once. The Longhorns have only won at least nine games twice since 2009, and only once since Mack Brown left. And that’s in an easier conference than the one its moving to in 2024 or 2025. 

Good teams win without their A game. Texas A&M has proven capable of winning tight games under Fisher. Texas has not. And that’s the difference between the two old rivals four weeks through the 2022 season. 

Max Duggan, Donovan Smith are the starters: The parallels between Texas Tech and TCU in 2022 are obvious. Both programs are under the direction of new head coaches, and both are also led by quarterbacks who began the season as backups despite previous success. Duggan lost the job to Chandler Morris despite starting for the better part of the previous two seasons at TCU. Donovan Smith, who helped the Red Raiders reach a bowl game with a stellar performance against Iowa State in 2021, similarly lost the offseason position battle to Tyler Shough. But both Morris and Shough were hurt in the first game of the season. Duggan and Smith took advantage and are playing too well to be benched when the Week 1 starters return from injury. 

Duggan earned his first Iron Skillet win on Saturday with a three-touchdown performance against SMU. TCU is the only undefeated FBS team in Texas. The senior from Iowa was 23 of 29 for 390 yards and five touchdowns in a Week 2 win over Tarleton State. He backed that up with a 22 of 29 for 278 yards and three touchdown throws against the Mustangs. He’s completing 77 percent of his passes in Dykes’ offense. And he hasn’t thrown a single interception in 61 attempts. 

Smith is a gamer. He was 14 of 16 for 221 yards and four touchdowns in relief duty against Murray State in the opener. He was 36 of 58 for 351 yards and three total touchdowns in the overtime win over Houston and was clutch again in the Week 4 win over Texas. He’s completed 66 percent of his passes for 1,117 yards and nine touchdowns. He’s also ran for three more scores. His five interceptions are a concern, but he’s proven to have a short memory. 

Baylor remains a Big 12 contender: People who wrote off Dave Aranda’s program in the offseason because of the mass exodus of talent to the NFL Draft or after the Week 2 overtime loss at BYU looked foolish following Baylor’s win over Iowa State on the road to kick off Big 12 play. Baylor used a win over the Cyclones in 2021 to build momentum into a Big 12 title run, and the Week 4 win could be viewed similarly by the end of the season. 

The best news for Baylor in the victory was the play of quarterback Blake Shapen and his receiving targets. The Bears won a road game against a talented team despite averaging fewer than three yards a carry. He was 19 of 26 for 238 yards and three touchdowns with zero interceptions. Wide receiver Gavin Holmes emerged as a potential no. 1 target with three catches for 92 yards and a score. He and Hal Presley both caught passes of over 35 yards. The tight end duo of Ben Sims and Drake Dabney combined for seven catches, 62 yards, and a score. In all, 11 Bears caught passes in the win. 

Conference USA is wide open: The preseason favorites were reigning champion UTSA and perennial contender UAB, but the first four weeks of the 2022 season proved that C-USA is up for grabs. The Roadrunners lost more than just the two games during its non-conference gauntlet. At least a dozen UTSA players who were penciled in on the two-deep entering the season were out for the win over Texas Southern. And with a road game against Middle Tennessee scheduled for this Friday, the coaching staff remains unsure how many of those pieces can recover in time to play on a short week. UAB remains a mystery with a 2-1 record that includes wins over Georgia Southern and Alabama A&M. The Blazers’ loss was by seven points to Liberty. 

Western Kentucky, FAU, and North Texas already hold conference wins. North Texas kicked off the season in Week 0 by beating UTEP on the road in front of a sold-out Sun Bowl. Western Kentucky looks like the best team in the conference through four games. In the state of Texas, Rice sits at 2-2 entering conference play with a win over Louisiana in Week 3 and a narrow defeat to Houston in Week 4. UTEP salvaged its season with a comfortable win over Boise State in Week 4. 

ONE QUESTION 

Who wins the Big 12? 

Texas lost to Texas Tech. Oklahoma lost to Kansas State. It looks like Kansas is for real. Baylor knocked off Iowa State on the road. The Big 12 is wild. There is no favorite to win the conference after the first week of action. Oklahoma and Texas, at least on paper, are the most talented teams, but that rarely matters on any given Saturday. The current favorite might just be Oklahoma State. The Cowboys are 3-0, but those wins came against Central Michigan, Arizona State, and Arkansas Pine-Bluff. Mike Gundy’s crew starts Big 12 play on Saturday in Waco against Baylor. The winner becomes a clear frontrunner to claim one of the two Big 12 championship game spots. 

ONE PREDICTION 

Houston still reaches the AAC championship game: Cracks are forming in the foundation at Houston with head coach Dana Holgorsen sending a few obvious messages to his team through the media following a seven-point win over Rice in Week 4. The Cougars entered the season as the AAC favorite and a dark horse candidate to run the table and crash the College Football Playoff. Instead, they are 2-2 with losses to future Big 12 opponents Texas Tech and Kansas. Still, the AAC is open for run. Houston was undefeated in the 2021 regular season against conference opponents, and without Cincinnati or UCF on the regular season schedule this season, another perfect run to the championship game is on the table. The biggest test might come this Friday in a home game against a Tulane team with plenty of momentum. 

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